Flamethrowers: Hot/Not Pitchers Weekly

Bret HoffmanCorrespondent IApril 27, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 18:  Johan Santana #57 of the New York Mets pitches against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 18, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets won the game 1-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

"Flamethrowers" is our Monday topic at thesportspa.blogspot.com during the MLB season. In these articles, we attempt to showcase the hot pitchers, as well as the not-so-hot pitchers.

These pitchers, in no particular order, are Hot/Not in my eyes.


1) Zack Greinke, Royals

Greinke, the story of the year so far in 2009, stayed hot by throwing his second complete game in a row. He gave up an unearned run in the fifth inning, which snapped his 38-inning scoreless streak that went back to last season.

Greinke still has an ERA of 0.00, 36 K, and a WHIP of .86. It appears that the 25-year-old has figured it out and should continue to pitch well.

He's in the zone, and this is something we might have to get used to over the next 10 years or so. Is he the next big thing? We can't be absolutely certain, but it sure looks that way.

2) Ricky Romero, Blue Jays

The 24-year-old Romero has been good so far for the division-leading Jays. He's 2-0 with an ERA of 1.71, 13 K, and a WHIP of 1.10.

He is scheduled to start tonight against the Royals and makes a great start, in my opinion. Don't worry, he's not going against Greinke, which would make it a tougher call.

He is owned in only 14.8 percent of ESPN leagues, so if you are short on starts this week, you might give him a go. He could reward you rather nicely.

3) Armando Galarraga, Tigers

Galarraga improved to 3-0 on Sunday with six strong innings against the Royals.

He has an ERA of 1.85 with a WHIP of 1.23. He also has 24 K in 24.1 innings of work.

He is owned in 93.8 percent of ESPN leagues, so you might want to check your waiver wire to make sure he's not still sitting there.

4) Zack Duke and Paul Maholm, Pirates

The Pirates are off to a surprising start so far in 2009, and these two guys are a big reason for their success.

Duke rebounded from a poor start last Sunday by going 8.1 strong innings against the Padres on Saturday. He improved to 3-1 on the season.

All four of his starts have been "quality starts," which are those of six innings or more with fewer than three earned runs allowed, and three of the four have been great performances. Even after getting roughed up by the Braves for six ER, Duke still has an ERA of 2.43, with 16 K and a WHIP of 1.11.

Duke is scheduled to start against the Reds on Friday. He is owned in only 39.8 percent of ESPN leagues, so if you are looking for another starting pitcher you might try him out. Ride the hot streak while you can.

Maholm has also turned in four "quality starts" thus far and sits at 3-0 on the year.

He has an ERA of 2.03 and a WHIP of 1.09. He has only 10 K in 26.2 innings, which means that people are putting the ball in play against him, and that could hurt him at some point.

Maholm is scheduled to take the hill Tuesday against the Brewers. He is owned in only 48.5 percent of ESPN leagues, so he's another option to consider if you are thin at pitcher for the week.

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5) Felix Hernandez, Mariners

King Felix has been great so far in 2009 for the surprising Mariners. The best thing about him is that he's only 23 and should continue to grow over the next couple of seasons.

He has a 3.12 ERA with 27 K and a WHIP of 1.23. His numbers are a little elevated, but that's all because of the five ER he gave up against Oakland in his second start of the year that resulted in a no-decision as the Mariners rallied to win.

This kid has a bright future, and keeper league owners will want to hang on to him.

6) Jair Jurrjens, Braves

The 23-year-old Jurrjens has been the best Braves pitcher so far in 2009. He's 2-1 on the season, and his only loss came in a game where he gave up one ER and the Braves lost 2-0 to the Pirates.

In other words, his team didn't score any runs, and therefore he lost despite pitching very well.

Jurrjens has an ERA of 1.42, with 14 K and a WHIP of 1.22 thus far. He is owned in 79 percent of ESPN leagues, so he may still be on your waiver wire. He's definitely worth a pickup if he's still available. His stock is rapidly rising, so you better hurry.

7) Chad Billingsley, Dodgers

Billingsley has pitched like a Cy Young candidate so far for the Dodgers. Much like Greinke, it looks like the 24-year-old is finally figuring it all out.

He is 4-0 on the season with an ERA of 2.05, 26 K, and a WHIP of .87. He faces the lowly Giants offense on Tuesday, and I wouldn't be surprised to see another great performance. You have to love that matchup.

8) Matt Cain, Giants

Cain pitched well again on Sunday but got a no-decision as Arizona rallied after his exit. All four of his starts have been "quality starts," but he has two no-decision due to his team's lack of offensive production.

Cain is 2-0 on the year, with an ERA of 2.08, 18 K, and a WHIP of 1.31. He's only given up six ER over 26 innings of work.

The bad thing about Cain is with the way the Giants' offense is going, he almost has to be perfect to get the win. This doesn't mean that his other stats won't help your team, but the wins will be hard to come by unless the Giants' bats wake up.

9) Josh Johnson, Marlins

Johnson started the year on fire but then ran into a little trouble in his third start of the season, against the Nationals of all teams.

He rebounded with seven shutout innings against the Phillies on Friday. However, the Phillies rallied to beat the Marlins 7-3 after Johnson left the game.

Much like Johnson, the Marlins started the year hot but have been struggling as of late. Johnson is still a great asset to your fantasy team but may get a few no-decisions like this one along the way.

His ERA of 2.20, 29 K, and WHIP of .91 are all great stats. Much like Greinke and Billingsley, Johnson is 25 and really seems to be putting it all together and should be a great fantasy contributor for years to come. A great keeper option too.

10) Kevin Millwood, Rangers and Dan Haren, Diamondbacks

Both of these guys have pitched great so far in 2009, and both of them have been victims of poor run support.

Millwood is 1-2 on the season with an ERA of 2.10, 17 K, and a WHIP of 0.83. That WHIP is the best of any pitcher, including Greinke, in the American League.

Granted, one of the losses was against a complete game shutout by Greinke, but Millwood certainly doesn't deserve to be 1-2 with those stats.

Millwood is owned in 64.3 percent of ESPN leagues and would be a smart pickup if you need help at pitcher because he is bound to get better run support down the road from a potent Texas offense.

He will take the mound at home Tuesday against the A's, which isn't a bad matchup in my opinion.

Dan Haren has been another unfortunate pitcher so far in 2009. He has great numbers, but his record doesn't reflect it, as he's 1-3 on the year.

The Diamondbacks' offense has only scored three runs in Haren's four starts, which means he is getting less than one run of support per start. You have to be perfect to win in that kind of situation, and the very few mistakes he has made have cost him a couple of losses.

His ERA of 1.38 is the third best in all of baseball, trailing only Greinke and Johan Santana. All four starts have been "quality starts," and he hasn't given up more than two ER in any of them.  He also has 26 K and a WHIP of 0.88.

Has a Cy Young-winning pitcher ever had a losing record? Just saying, because those are Cy Young-type stats. Too bad his team can't score him any runs, huh?

11) Johan Santana, Mets

Santana has been phenomenal, plain and simple. He has an ERA of 0.70, with 37 K and a WHIP of 0.90 through his first 25.2 innings of work.

Those are great stats, especially the strikeout ratio, as Santana is pitching like the ace he is.

I'd be very surprised if he doesn't win the NL Cy Young because he is typically stronger after the All-Star break throughout his career.

Better after the All-Star break? I can't see how he could be much better, but it's gonna be great for the Mets and scary for everyone else if he holds true to form.

12) Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

Much like Haren and Millwood, Wandy has been a victim of poor run support as well. He is 1-2 on the season.

In his two losses, the Astros have scored zero runs, which makes it impossible to win, no matter how well you pitch.

He has an ERA of 1.80, with 22 K and a WHIP of 1.04. Again, those stats aren't accurately reflected by his win-loss record.

He is scheduled to start against the Reds on Tuesday and would be a good pickup, in my opinion, because Houston's offense is better than what they have shown so far. Plus, Houston is always better in the second half of the season.

So, pick Wandy up now knowing that he will help you when it's playoff time in your fantasy league.

13) Tim Wakefield and Justin Masterson, Red Sox

Wakefield, the 42-year-old knuckleballer for the Sox, has pitched really well through his first three starts.

He is 2-1 with an ERA of 2.45, 12 K, and a WHIP of 1.05. He is owned in only 25 percent of ESPN leagues and will pitch against the Indians tonight, which is a great matchup.

The thing to remember with Wakefield is that his knuckleball is either off or on; there's not really an in-between. And when his knuckleball isn't knuckling very much, he gets hit very hard and can hurt your fantasy team.

But this doesn't happen very often, and his benefit to your team far outweighs the bad in my opinion. Pick him up today and put him in the lineup versus the Indians.

Justin Masterson has done a good job filling in while Dice-K is on the DL. He has won both of his starts, including a great performance against the Yankees yesterday.

He has gone 5.1 innings in both of the starts and given up only one ER in each of them as well. He is owned in only 10.1 percent of ESPN leagues and will continue to have value until Dice-K returns.

He will face the Rays on Friday, and with the Red Sox playing the way they are, I don't mind that matchup. Your call, but I think he will pitch well again.

Keep An Eye On

Phil Hughes, Yankees

Hughes is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Tigers. He can't do any worse than any of your other Yankee pitchers, who have the worst ERA in all of baseball. It's hard to believe with the names in that rotation, but it's true.


1) Jake Peavy, Padres

Peavy got hit pretty hard by the Giants on Tuesday, then again by the Pirates on Sunday, giving up 11 ER in 11 innings.

Over his first five starts, he has an ERA of 5.74 and a WHIP of 1.47, which are both not good at all. He does have 32 K, which is about his only bright spot at this point.

He will throw against the Dodgers on Friday, and if he's not careful, that one could get ugly too.

Peavy is a former Cy Young winner, so don't count him out just yet. But if he has a good start, I might sell high on him before it's too late.

2) Justin Verlander, Tigers

Verlander has struggled badly to open the 2009 season. He has an ERA of 9.00 and a WHIP of 1.71. He has 25 K in 21 innings, which is good.

It doesn't get any easier for him either, as he will face the Yankees tonight. I expect this one to get pretty ugly, as the Yankees are coming off a sweep by Boston.

Verlander may be the Yankees' punching bag tonight.

3) Francisco Liriano, Twins

Liriano is 0-4 to start the year. He has an ERA of 7.06, 17 K, and a WHIP of 1.38.

Like I've said the past couple of weeks, you would expect him to rebound eventually. At this point, you aren't going to get much value for him anyways, so you might as well be patient and take the chance that he figures it out.

4) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Another highly acclaimed youngster, Kershaw is 0-2 over his first four starts. He has an ERA of 7.29 and a WHIP of 1.43. Again, the only bright spot for Kershaw has been his 26 K in 21 innings.

He's only 21, and fantasy owners have realized that it may take him a few years to reach his full potential. Do I like the kid? In the future, yes. In 2009, not so much. He may do better down the road, but I like him a lot more in 2010 and beyond.

5) Josh Beckett, Red Sox

Beckett has struggled over his past three starts, giving up 17 ER in 17 innings.

He now has an ERA of 6.00 and a WHIP of 1.63 on the year. He does have 23 K, which isn't horrible for 24 innings of work.

I fully expect Beckett to be tough down the stretch, and I wouldn't give up on him just yet.

6) Ricky Nolasco, Marlins

A lot of people were very high on Nolasco after his strong finish in 2008. Those people have been disappointed so far.

Nolasco is 1-2 with an ERA of 6.86, 17 K, and a WHIP of 1.67 through 21 innings so far in 2009. His only win came against the Nationals in his first start, despite giving up five ER in six innings.

At 26 and now in his third year in the big leagues, you would expect a little more out of Nolasco.

He will pitch against the Mets, at New York, on Tuesday, so I guess we will see.

I wouldn't be surprised to see another bad outing at this point, as the Mets are starting to show some signs of life. Plus, the Mets have already beaten him once this year.

7) A.J. Burnett, Yankees

Burnett got lit up for eight ER in five innings of work on Saturday against Boston. He didn't suffer the loss though, as the Yankees and Red Sox went back and forth after Burnett left the game.

Burnett's ERA is now 5.47, and his WHIP is up to 1.37. I don't think it's too much to be concerned about, and that rivalry can get the best of anybody.

Hang on to Burnett, as he was the Yankees' best pitcher up until that point.

8) Cliff Lee, Indians

Off to a 1-3 start in 2009, Lee has an ERA of 5.25 and a WHIP of 1.75—which, again, leads me to believe that last year's Cy Young performance was an absolute fluke. It did come out of nowhere, and there is no denying it, Lee fans. Just deal with it!

To make things worse, Lee gets to face the red-hot Red Sox, who have won 10 in a row. Good luck Cliff; I think you're gonna need it.

9) Edinson Volquez, Reds

Volquez had a good 2008 season for the Reds, especially in the first half. He fell apart after the All-Star break, but many think it was because they of the heavy workload that was given to him.

It looks like he could be paying for all those innings in 2009. He has an ERA of 6.20 and a WHIP of 1.87. He does have 22 K in 20.1 innings, which isn't bad.

He's only 25, and there's a good chance he could bounce back, but there's also a chance that the fatigue will do him in this year.

I'd expect mixed results the rest of the way in 2009.

10) Matt Garza, Devil Rays

After two strong performances to open the season, Garza has been roughed up a bit his past two starts.

His ERA is now 4.97, and his WHIP is 1.30. His 24 K in 25.1 innings aren't bad at all though.

Garza has some pretty filthy stuff, and I believe that he is better than he has shown. The Rays are struggling a bit right now, and I think they will find it difficult to repeat their 2008 success.

Garza is going to have to get it going if they stand any chance at all, and I think he is capable of rising to the challenge. Actually, I think he's a better pitcher when the pressure is on him. I expect him to turn it around.

Thanks, and tune in next Monday for more Flamethrower action.

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